Written by Katie Jackson-Griffin, LCPC

What does LGBTQIA stand for?

There are a wide variety of identities and experiences that are a part of the LGBTQIA+ community. The acronym “LGBTQIA” stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender/Trans, Queer, Intersex, Asexual, and Aromantic. Typically, LGBTQIA is followed by a plus sign to include many other identities.

Being an Ally to the LGBTQIA+ Community

To be an ally means respectfully supporting and acknowledging the unique experiences of the LGBTQIA+ community. Essentially, good allyship is about respect and solidarity. For example, an ally does not misgender folks who have formed their gender identity.

Further, it’s important to educate yourself. Be mindful to not put pressure on LGBTQIA+ individuals to educate you about their community.

LGBTQIA+ is an evolving and largely encompassing acronym

Each individual in this group is unique. However, the need for support within the community is consistent, no matter how a person identifies. Moreover, a lack of understanding about some gender and sexual identities can be harmful and isolating.

Ultimately, while some identities may be outside of one’s social norms, all identities are equally valid.

Consider Tobi’s story of expressing their gender identity to their family

Tobi has known for a while that they didn’t feel like male or female genders matched their true self. Recently, Tobi decided to ask their family to refer to them with “they/them” pronouns. Also, they expressed that they no longer want to be referred to by their given name. After Tobi shared this with their family, their parents showed a lack of understanding.

As time goes on, Tobi’s parents continue to misgender them and call them by their given name.

Because of being misgendered, Tobi feels that they are not being heard, seen, or accepted despite their best attempts to share about what they need.

Tobi struggles to navigate their relationship with their parents after they voiced their identity.

To get more support, Tobi begins to attend a local LGBTQIA+ support group, where they find others who can relate to their experience.

Tobi begins to explore the concept of a “chosen family” to gain ongoing support and a source of emotional safety.

Later, Tobi hears from others in the group about affirming counselors in the area. As a result, Tobi is excited by the idea of finding a counselor who supports people at all stages of their self-exploration journey.

While attending groups and developing a chosen family, Tobi begins seeing an LGBTQIA-affirming counselor

In counseling, Tobi has a safe and non-judgmental space to find ways to cope with their unique struggles. They begin to learn how to navigate their relationships and set boundaries. This helps them to better connect with others in a healthy way. Now, Tobi is able to work towards feeling fulfilled. Also, they are able to practice living as their true and authentic self.

Like Tobi, you are not alone in your self-exploration journey.

Resources for the LGBTQIA+ Community in Chicago

Here is a list of resources for care, community, or safety in your journey towards living as your authentic self: 

Center on Halsted:

The Center on Halsted focuses on “advancing community and securing the health and well-being of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer people of Chicagoland.” Also, they are open to the public daily from 8:00 AM – 9:00 PM. Visit their website for more information on their many programs and events.

Howard Brown Health Center:

The Howard Brown Health Center “exists to eliminate the disparities in healthcare experienced by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people.” To that end, they conduct research, education, and outreach. As well, Howard Brown offers a variety of healthcare and mental health services. You can learn more by going to their website. 

LGBT Neighbors in Bridgeport:

Based on Chicago’s South Side, the “LGBT Neighbors in Bridgeport” group offers meet-ups to make friends and gain support. However, they welcome people from all Chicago neighborhoods! You can check out their website or Facebook group to learn more and message them if you want to connect.

Live Oak:

Live Oak believes that “The roots of a healthy life are integrity, authenticity, wholeness and connection.” Live Oak provides mental health services to help people more fully connect to the deeper parts of themselves and others. To that end, their practice aims to integrate your unique identity, roles, and life experiences.

Specifically, Live Oak focuses on LGBTQ-affirming and trauma-informed practice, multi-systemic and multicultural approaches, and creative & expressive treatment.

Also, Live Oak offers individual, couples, family, and group therapy services. To get connected, go to their website, reach out by phone at 773-880-1310, or email at info@liveoakchicago.com.

PFLAG:

PFLAG is a national organization for individuals, their families, and allies of the LGBTQ community. They offer peer-to-peer meetings, online outreach, and telephone hotlines. There are several chapters across the country – including in Chicago and the Chicago suburbs. For more information on the Chicago chapter, go to their website, contact them by phone at 630-415-0622, or email them at pflagchicagometro@pflagillinois.org.

Transformative Justice Law Project of Illinois:

TJLP offers free support from attorneys and trained volunteers for name and gender marker changes. For example, from 9:00 AM – 3:00 PM on the last Friday of each month, you can visit TJLP for Name Change Mobilization. Here, you can gain help in filing your petition to change your legal name. Their services are located on the 12th floor of the Daley Center, in room 1202, at 50. W. Washington, Chicago, IL 60602. Also, you can request support over the phone if you are outside the Chicagoland area. Additionally, TJLP can help waive fees for this process for those that qualify.

For more information, visit their website or call 312-558-1472. Follow them on Facebook to stay up-to-date on the support services they offer and read about ways they have helped others.

Restorative Counseling is a LGTBQIA-affirming practice.

At Restorative Counseling, we strive to create an inclusive and non-judgmental space for you to be your authentic self. Our team works to stay informed on best practices and community news. That way, you don’t feel like you have to educate us while trying to get the support you need.

We’re striving to understand your unique experience and we work with the awareness that each person’s story is different.

We are here to support you wherever you may be in your self-exploration process. To that end, we recognize that safety and support may look different to each person depending on your experiences, culture, or background. But no matter what, we want you to have a support system that you can trust in times of need.

Contact us today to learn more about our services and to start working with one of our team members.